It's singularly awesome that Americans set aside one hallowed day in which to bathe meat and carbs in gravy. But for some of us, Thanksgiving, the holidays in general, can trigger depression, which has nothing to do with a lack of gratitude or an aversion to good food.
Because sufferers of depression are invisibly wounded, its easy to scoff at what seems like piddly, first world, holiday “issues.” I, too, would be tempted to judge and say, “Hey, Sad Sack, look at world and be thankful you live where you live! Woman up and make some mashed potatoes, already!”
Unfortunately, I too can be counted among the ranks of the mentally broken. I envy every person for whom the holidays are filled with love and family togetherness. Someday, when I can actually bring myself to celebrate Thanksgiving again, I hope to replace my bad memories with new ones spent with my own children.
To do so, I've created the following no stress holiday etiquette based on many years of ...experience. I hope it helps all to whom it is apropos:
Avoid creating unnecessary stress for yourself and others.
It hurts absolutely no-one to loosen up on some expectations you may have for the meal, yourself and others. Neither the turkey nor the pie crust need be just so.
If a holiday's success were to be judged solely by the food on your table then my family's Thanksgivings were ideal. But it was at all at a cost of family harmony. For all the obsessing over this or that recipe, I would have gladly eaten cold pizza on Thanksgiving if it meant that nothing got ugly that day.
Don't feed the addicts' antics.
The worst was was the rage. Someone always had to behave like an animal and cuss and scream and break things.
If this mirrors your experience, whatever you do, don't feed the rage-a-holic's antics. Do not give them an audience or admonish them. That's exactly what they're spoiling for and it only perpetuates the problem. Remember also that you never have to accept verbal abuse or intimidation. Nor must you expose your kids to violence or chemical dependency just to keep peace. Politely excuse yourself, and pray for those afflicted.
To avoid disappointment, be honest about what to expect.
There were some years that the Thanksgiving meal almost didn't happen because someone maliciously failed to cook anything so that their invited family had to do the Thanksgiving meal when they arrived. I remember being very hungry for many Thanksgivings, ironically.
But, more than a lack of turkey, one felt a lack of love, which, in retrospect, most likely stemmed from a mental health problem. I eventually resigned to things as they were and it set me free from disappointment. Plus, by then I could drive and visit a drive thru if I was hungry. Problem solved.
It's okay to do your own thing.
My path of healing began when I decided that my little family would start our own, new Thanksgiving tradition. So far it involves Reno, a buffet, and desolation wilderness...and they been the most fun, and the most peaceful holidays I have ever experienced.
My point is, you are not a bad person if you need to do your own thing for awhile. Go for it. You can always come back to the traditional thing later.
That's my plan, anyway. I fully intend on doing Thanksgiving again one day. Have Pinterest, will succeed. My closest friends and I will sip wine in the kitchen, laugh, roll out pastry crusts, and fill pies; our children will be playing, it will smell like turkey. It will really be Thanksgiving.
No anger, no malice, no hateful rage, only love and food and more love, and meat and carbs all smothered in gravy.